JACKSBORO - Suspended Campbell County Judge Amanda Sammons was acquitted Wednesday on two charges of felony official misconduct.
After a full day of testimony, Sammons' defense attorney Wade Davies asked special Judge Paul Summers to dismiss the charges because there was no intent to harm by her actions.
Sammons, however, still faces a separate judicial investigation into her conduct while serving on the bench.
The self-proclaimed “blue-eyed assassin” has been under scrutiny for months as defense attorneys – and even the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office – have accused her of overstepping her authority.
A grand jury in August initially indicted Sammons on four counts of official misconduct that were tied to two separate cases. However, senior Judge Paul Summers dismissed two of the counts in mid-October.
At issue now are the two charges tied to a case involving 26-year-old Krista Smith of Jacksboro.
Smith was pulled over by a Caryville police officer in January 2016 because her children were not wearing seatbelts. The officer arrested her, and she was charged with child endangerment. However, while she was in the Campbell County jail, deputies said Sammons called and had her charges revised to aggravated child abuse and neglect – a much more serious charge.
Sammons denied making that change, but records kept by the jail dispute that. As a result, Smith’s attorney asked for Sammons to remove herself from the case, claiming she could not remain impartial. Sammons denied that request in February.
In March, Judge Shayne Sexton, of the criminal division, heard Smith’s appeal, and ruled that Sammons would be removed from the case.
Prosecutors during testimony Wednesday used witnesses to outline what happened and when, calling court officials, a TBI agent, and Campbell County corrections officers to the stand.
Tonya Severson, a Campbell County corrections officer, said Judge Sammons called her the day after Smith was arrested to set bond. Severson testified that Sammons said she knew of Smiths' case and the charge should be aggravated child neglect and abuse with bond set at $250,000.
The elevated charge is noted on Smith's face sheet, part of jail intake paperwork, but nothing is changed on the warrant for Smith.
The defense attorney claims that Sammons briefly confused Smith’s case with another one, and in fact called back later to change the bond back to $10,000, as witness Mercedes Williams, a corrections officer, confirmed from the stand.
Davies said Sammons never actually changed Smith's charges because the warrant was never changed.
Before resting their case, prosecutors called Krista Smith to the stand, who talked about her confusion and fear when she learned about the more serious charges and higher bond.
Defense attorney Davies asked the judge for an acquittal because a jury could not conclude that Sammons had intent to harm Krista Smith or exceed her authority, based on the evidence presented.
When Judge Summers asked the prosecution to answer how Sammons maliciously harmed Krista Smith, the prosecution said Sammons had the opportunity to change the charge back when she lowered bond to $10,000.
It is unclear, based on testimony, if Sammons knew the charges had been changed after setting Smith's bond to $250,000.
(© 2016 WBIR)